As we witness the ferocity of the anger in the protests that have ignited across the US, I’ve been trying to make sense of what’s going on. Here’s one idea I’ve landed on: It’s a powerful example of ‘energy in action.’ Or, more specifically, it’s a huge mass of potential energy being converted into kinetic energy.

Remember in learning about potential and kinetic energy in science at school? In the most simple terms, potential energy is ‘energy stored up’. Kinetic energy is when that stored up energy is released and used to make something happen.

Right now we’re seeing potential energy – in this case, pent up feelings of anger, fear and frustration – being converted into kinetic energy – in this case, protests. It’s energy made manifest.

Which, if you think about it, is what making change has always involved. Harnessing potential energy and converting it into kinetic.

Here are a couple more examples:

Want to change the speed limit on your local road? You start with a sense of frustration that the current limit is too high – that’s potential energy.  You then channel that to build a coalition of willing petitioners to back you, so you can collectively lobby the authorities – that’s kinetic energy.

Want to change your organisation’s policy for how people work from home? First, you get annoyed with the current policy, and you cultivate a vision for what you want – that’s potential energy. You conduct a series of experiments across teams, and collect data on how working from home impacts on productivity – that’s kinetic energy.

Over the past couple of months, I’m guessing you and your organisation have been through a period of fairly massive disruption. As a result, there’s likely to be a fair amount of collective potential energy built up over this time. It’s not necessarily anger, fear and frustration. It’s more likely to be a huge store of ideas, dreams, and possibilities. These are ideas waiting to be realised. This is a store of potential energy waiting to be converted into kinetic.

What might you do to harness that energy and turn it into productive action?

Here are three change-making ideas:

  1. Host conversations to decide what you collectively want
  2. Encourage large scale experimentation and data sharing
  3. Identify your cultural carriers and change makers to amplify the impact of the positive.

Potential energy is what we all have. Kinetic energy is what leadership releases and helps channel to positive ends. Go be a leader.



Photo by Emiliano Arano from Pexels

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